Rockabilly blues

Senior pursues uncommon passion

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Rockabilly blues

Ryan Glenn Band performs on stage at Love & War in Texas alongside his band members Dave Moore, Steven Kistner, and Nate Morefield. Moore is Ryan Lafollette’s stepfather and accompanies him on guitar and vocals.

Ryan Glenn Band performs on stage at Love & War in Texas alongside his band members Dave Moore, Steven Kistner, and Nate Morefield. Moore is Ryan Lafollette’s stepfather and accompanies him on guitar and vocals.

Emily Lundell

Ryan Glenn Band performs on stage at Love & War in Texas alongside his band members Dave Moore, Steven Kistner, and Nate Morefield. Moore is Ryan Lafollette’s stepfather and accompanies him on guitar and vocals.

Emily Lundell

Emily Lundell

Ryan Glenn Band performs on stage at Love & War in Texas alongside his band members Dave Moore, Steven Kistner, and Nate Morefield. Moore is Ryan Lafollette’s stepfather and accompanies him on guitar and vocals.

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Senior Ryan Glenn LaFollette stood near the edge of the outdoor stage at Love & War In Texas, a restaurant in Plano featuring live music. It was the night of Aug. 31st and the middle-aged crowd questioned who this quiet high schooler was.

When the announcer introduced the “Ryan Glenn Band” as the opening performance, Ryan took the stage. His voice commanded the crowd’s attention, despite being the youngest person at the show by at least 20 years. But no one in the audience seemed to notice his age. They just heard his voice and tapped along to his rhythm.

They tapped along because he was playing songs they remembered from childhood. He was playing rockabilly, a musical style that seemed to be rock and roll played by hillbillies.

This style of music, that most high schoolers have never even heard of, came from the combination of the familiar country music style and the rhythm of blues in the 1950s.

I figured if this guy who has albums all over the world, if a guy like that gives me a chance… that probably means that I’ve got something.”

— Ryan LaFollette

Ryan defines it as roots music.

“It’s a hybrid of country [and] the rhythm of the blues back in the 50s, but we put a lot of punk influence in it,” Ryan said.

He knows the genre well. Once he started playing, he flipped a switch. Confidence flowed through him as he performed his own original songs like “The End,” covers of famous country songs, such as Johnny Cash’s “Transfusion Blues” and even threw in a rockabilly cover of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” His love for the music showed through the way he danced across the stage as he sang and played his black acoustic guitar.

From the audience, the lead singer of that night’s headlining band, Kevin Geil, watched proudly. It had been only a year since they had met on that same stage, and he could hear how far his young friend had progressed.

“He’s doing great,” Geil said. “He will carry on the legacy of being a rockabilly guy and throwing down some cool tunes.”

• • •

Ryan first discovered rockabilly in the sixth grade when his grandmother bought him an Elvis cassette. Of all the tapes in the wooden case at the thrift store, this cassette was sitting on top as if by

fate. Ryan’s grandmother, who has been performing on stage for years, even being the in-house band for a TV show years ago, was happy to buy it for her grandson. They listened to it the whole car ride home.

Emily Lundell
Ryan Glenn Band opened the scene for Two Tons of Steel at the Love & War In Texas restaurant in Plano. Senior Ryan LaFollette has a reputation of greeting his crowd, interacting with people during and in between songs.

 

Since then, he has held a passion for the style and has wanted to make it a part of his daily life. Though Ryan realizes the music he loves is not for everybody.

“When you do anything different you’re going to alienate yourself a little bit especially at first,” Ryan said. “When I was a freshman especially I got picked on quite a bit.”

Ryan said that other high schoolers didn’t really get what he was into but he didn’t give up on his music. Instead, freshman year he went one step further with his passion and reinvented himself by adopting the rockabilly style.  Most days he comes to school wearing Western-style button-up shirts, blue suede shoes with his hair slicked back and styled “eight feet high” according to Ryan.

Ryan endured people’s digging remarks, insults and name calling because he knew in his heart, this is what he wanted. All he needed was someone to give him a chance. During his junior year, Ryan got that chance.

Ryan was excited to finally see Two Tons of Steel perform live at Love & War. As he waited for the show, he met Kevin Geil, the lead singer. After mentioning that he loved Kevin’s music and was interested in singing himself, Kevin asked if he knew any Sun Records songs. The Memphis  production studio opened more than 60 years before Ryan was born and was the studio that discovered Elvis.

“I love all that stuff,” Ryan replied.

“Do you know ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’?” Geil asked, referring to the “B-side” of  of Elvis Presley’s first record, released in 1954.

“Yes sir, I know it by heart.”

“Well, you’ve got a gig.”
Later in the middle of the band’s set, Geil invited Ryan onstage to sing with him. After performing several songs, Giele left Ryan with two pieces of advice: learn guitar and form a band.

That night, Ryan took his passion one step further, he went home and started teaching himself guitar with his stepdads old acoustic 1997 Alvarez and dreaming of his band, picturing what it could become. Rather than focus on how he did sound, Ryan focused on how he could sound. Ryan’s serious pursuit of music had begun.

“I figured this guy who has albums that are played all over the world, if a guy like that gives me a chance, he thinks I’m good,” Ryan said. “[If] he suggest[s] I get a band together, that probably means that I’ve got something.”

Emily Lundell
After Ryan Glenn Band’s 45-minute opening set, lead singer of Two Tons of Steel, Kevin Geil, began to set up for his band’s performance. Senior Ryan LaFollette has shared the stage with other Texas performers on frequent occasions, such as Dale Watson.

The people close to Ryan had always been supportive, his parents especially. His mother, Kathy Moore, has been performing country music on stage since she was 12 and his stepfather, Dave Moore,  has been playing guitar since he was 14, and has been in several country bands over the years. They have both always supported his musical passion, but they started taking the idea of him pursuing it as a career seriously after he performed with Geil.

Since Ryan started pursuing music, his parents have been instrumental in helping him get his career off the ground. He calls his mother the “Mom-ager”, because she’s the one to reach out to venues and get in contact with promoters. While Ryan’s stepfather Dave helps with the bands dynamics like deciding the set list and even joined the band as the lead guitarist.

With his parents support, the band has taken off with numerous accomplishments.

They’ve performed at the Wildflower Arts and Music festival to a crowd of over 600 people, along with artists like Fitz and The Tantrums and Bowling for Soup. They have been interviewed by several country music magazines, most recently in Blue Suede News, which has been in publication for over 30 years.

Ryan credits his success with his chance encounter with Geil, who has been a big part of the band since the beginning.

“He’s a mentor to me, he’s really helped shape me,” Ryan said. “Kevin gave me a chance when a lot of people weren’t. [He] did it expecting nothing in return.”

Performing almost every weekend, Ryan feels the most comfortable on stage, as if it is where he belongs.  But he can’t really tell you what is so special about music for him.

“It’s something inside me that just pulls me towards it. I can’t help but want to do it,” Ryan said. “[Music has] the power to heal, the power to grow, the power to uplift, and all you need is three chords.”

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